Friday, February 27, 2009

Rick resigns as reds rumbled riverside

Liverpool suffered their second league defeat of the season as Boro won 2-0 at the Riverside. Why is it a team who hasn't won in 14 games manages to turn it around against us? The likes of Downing, O'Neil and Wheater looked great but I'm sure they'll be back to their normal level of mediocrity next game. Carragher wasn't up to playing right back so Skrtel had to fill in for the injured Arbeloa. He was uncomfortable in this position and Downing made the most of it. Brad Jones had a great match and made some superb saves. We were the better team for the first 30 mins and then Xabi put the ball into his own net towards the end of the first half. But after that Boro improved and fully deserved their win. We were blunt up front without the injured Torres. Then Gerrard had to come off in the second half and any chance of another comeback went with him.

El Zahr started his first senior match for the club. He put in a few decent performances from the bench early on this year but the young Moroccan offered very little here. Dirk had a poor day up front and missed an open goal. He wasn't the only one and very few of the lads can emerge from this with much credit. A shocking performance. We knew our title challenge was finished after the city draw last week but now it's surely game over. With Chelsea resurgent under Hiddink, we'll have to get our shit together. We've already lost second place and could really do with reclaiming it. Finishing second or third doesn't matter a huge amount but psychologically it might leave us in a better frame of mind regarding next season.

It's the black cats at anfield this Tuesday and a good chance for some of the poor performers to get their act together and show some pride. What we really need is an early goal. All too often this year we've been unable to convert our dominance and chances into goals, which gives the opposition hope if they keep us goalless until half time. This makes the Anfield faithful lose faith and their unease gets to the players. Let's hope we score a hat full in the first half to avoid this all too familiar scenario.

Tony Barrett in the echo revealed that Parry is leaving in the summer, which is great news for Rafa and the club. I was originally a fan of Parry but he's been a disaster in recent times. He was one of the major reason the yanks succeeded, we're poor commercially, ticket office is a joke, he's messed up loads of transfers through sloth and ineptitude (Walcott, Vidic, Alves etc), the list goes on and on. But with him leaving, it will mean that Hicks has a free reign to do what he wants at board level. This worries me. Hopefully he'll be forced to sell before he gets a chance to inflict any more damage.

The Brazilian media are linking us with a summer move for Olympiakos striker Diogo. He's a player that Arsenal, Chelsea and us have tried to sign in the past. He's only 21 and has done well in Greece since his move there. But whether he'd be able to make the step up to the premier league is a different story. Let the trail by youtube commence.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Rafa raids Real

Liverpool only won because Real are in fact shit, according to the pundits. Despite the fact that they were on a superb winning and goal scoring run, beating all comers, it only took Liverpool 90 mins at the Santiago Bernabéu to expose them as the muck that they are. Poor Andy Gray was inconsolable on Sky after the match.

The talk beforehand had Gerrard to start. As it happened, he only made the final few mins. Torres took a knock in the first few mins and didn't really get into the game afterwards. It was down to the supporting cast to make the headlines.

Yossi won it 1-0 for us with a header from a superb Aurelio free. The Israeli has really come into his own in the last few months and was superb last night. Playing in behind a lone striker really suits him more than playing wide. Man of the match for me but there were others who ran him close.

Dirk had another huge Champions League showing. All of the defence did well and restricted Real to a few chances. Pepe did well when called upon. Xabi and Javier were brilliant. Xabi tried one of his trademark efforts from his own half. Iker managed to scramble back and turn it over.

It was a huge result to get the away goal and keep a clean sheet. I do fancy or chances to go through and I fancy our chances against any team in Europe. I think that we have an aura and reputation that scares the opposition. They know that Rafa is the master of the two legged tie. Our reputation precedes us and works for us the way it does for Utd in the premiership.It's off to the Riverside on Saturday afternoon. They are never easy opposition for us and are one of those teams that we struggle against. I fear that we may be looking at another draw what with Torres out injured. At least Gerrard will be back to start then.

Ben Blackmore on the Setanta site posts a top article on Rafa. Contrast that with this shit. Matthew Sayed in the Times has an article praising the contribution of Gerrard. According to him, it's all down to Gerrard and Rafa has had nothing to do with our trophy haul since his arrival. What bollocks?

Transfer fiction writers Tribal football are linking us with a move for Raul Albiol in the summer. He's a young player who'd be an addition as he can play in defence or midfield but it raises more fears of an Agger departure. Kerrison revealed that he rejected a few moves to Europe. Was one of them from us?

Anfield have a great article on why it's best not to believe everything that you read in the press. That's been emphasised this week with all of the Rafa to quit rumours amid talk of bookies suspending betting. The boss quashed all of that rubbish with his post game press conference.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

All over bar the shouting

The fat lady is warming up and going through her vocal exercise. I would suggest "No distance left to run" by Blur. It's over. We gave it a decent shot but we're out of it now. It would require a Utd collapse and us to win every game for us to win the league. I really can't see that happening. Before the start of the season I predicted a second place finish and a title challenge. I'll take little joy in being proved right if we finish second, but the thought remains that Utd deserve and it and we don't have sufficient quality and depth.

Rafa hasn't conceded defeat, and I wouldn't expect him to while it's mathematically possible. But we needed to win this one and we didn't. Again we played well but couldn't turn possession and chances into goals. There was a goalmouth scramble in the first half where we should have scored. In fairness city were decent in the second half and caused us problems. Dirk did well with his goal to pounce on a chance which fell to him in the box after a Nando mishit. While we got a bit of luck there, it was made up for the fact that Bellamy's shot was going wide only for an Arbeloa deflection. We had Lucas and Javier in the middle and they didn't give the kind of service to Torres that he needs. With Alonso and Gerrard unavailable, we lack the experienced players to come in. Our bench isn't loaded with superb impact subs and the likes of Lucas are only ok. We're not replacing like with like when the squad is tested. Real isn't going to be easy as they've put some great form together recently. They won 6-1 at the weekend. Stevie should be fit for the bench at least which is a huge boost. We'll need him. I'd expect us to get at least a score draw.

Javier doesn't do goal celebrations by half. Here he is at the end of the Chelsea match.
Andrea Dossena has said that he's more settled in Liverpool now. There were rumours earlier in the season that he was having problems off the pitch. But his performances have improved greatly in recent months. If Rafa can coach him how to defend in a 4231 formation then he may have a future with us but I suspect that he may return to Italy in the summer with Insua and Aurelio as the two left backs next year.

Agger isn't happy. He has a back injury which forced him to miss the City game and he hasn't traveled to Madrid. Pepe is happy and doesn't want to go to Atletico despite what his Dad claims.

101 great goals has an article on FCB kid Deulofeu, who's been linked with us recently. No doubt he'll blow us off and go to Arsenal. Kerrison's agent is saying that we've been in touch but he doesn't want to move for the next year. He's a player that we tried to sign before so there could be something in this. The Palmeras president says it's all press talk without foundation. The guardian is linking LFC with a move for Espanyol's teenage midfielder Oscar Sielva. Apparently we can pick him up for around £2m as part of the Riera deal. Another player that Rafa has tried to sign in the past, David Villa, has indicated that he wants to stay in Spain if he leaves Valencia. I doubt we will have the cash to bid for him anyway.

Paul Tomkins on the official site attacks the myth that we are over reliant on Gerrard and Torres. He analysis the stats and shows that Utd are more reliant on their top two, Rooney and Ronaldo, than we are.

Tony Evens in the Times has put together a list of the 50 greatest reds of all time. I'm sure we can all dispute the numbers and order but sure it's an interesting read all the same.

My mate Clive Owen was in town this week and I attended an interview he did at the Dublin Academy. He regaled us with tales of watching the Istanbul Champions League final with Mickey Rourke. He has some quality quotes about the Reds in this Esquire interview. "That's a pure thing, that club. Not really explainable, really. My family endures. They don't understand it." We were a pure club but I feel that the taint of Hicks and Gillett is corrupting us. Save us Clive! Here he is hitting the bottle after the City game.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Rafa rotates his way to the top

The knives were out with Rafa's team selection on Saturday where he made 6 changes due to injuries, suspensions and the fact that we'd just come through a grueling 120 mins derby midweek. When we went 2-1 down the knives were poised at the managers back. But two of Rafa's striking subs made decisive contributions against a tired defence. Kuyt and Torres scored to send us back to the top of the table which sent a giant "fuck you" to the begrudges.

A 3-2 victory over Portsmouth had the knockers declaring us lucky. Bullshit. I watched the match in it's entirety and we were way better than them. To read the match reports we were abject until Torres came off the bench. Au contraire, we were really good in the first half, without Torres, Xabi and Dirk, who were on the bench, Lucas who was suspended and Gerrard who was injured. Why are we lucky when we score late goals but it's the mark of champions when Utd do it or Morinho's Chelsea did it?

Yossi was central in this period. He took centre stage as the playmaker and was central to our passing, movement and invention. He was unlucky to hit the side netting in this period. Towards halftime he danced past two defender, leaving them for dead. He was the one who crossed for Torres' header at the death. He's been in good form recently but this was probably his best ever game for us. Playing in the middle definitely enables him to have more of an influence. I thought he was just a squad player but if he keeps up this form then surely he deserves a start ahead of Riera or Kuyt?

Another player who performed well on the day was Aurelio. He lined up alongside the superb Javier and Yossi in central midfield of our 3-4-3. A lot of journalists seemed to think that Rafa choose this set up for the laugh, rather than injuries and suspensions. What dopes. The brain trust on Setanta were "baffled". Poor Tim Sherwood was nearly in tears when we won. They clearly hadn't researched Fabio as he's played central midfield for Rafa before at Valencia. He is a superb passer and slotted into the Xabi role seamlessly. He hit the post with a free in the first half and scored from an indirect free in the second. Free kick Fabio is happy with his goal and the result. He should be put on set piece duty from now on.

Agger excelled as the libero of the three central defenders. He frequently ran forward with the ball at his feet and hit some superb balls. He is a star and it'll be a disgrace if we let him slip through our fingers. Parry needs to get him signed up NOW! Dossena and Arbeloa ran the flanks with aggression. Dossena had another good game but both wing backs were let down by their crossing.

Rafa sprung Torres and Dirk from the bench towards the end and both scored. If Fergie did something similar he gets named a genius as in the Champions league final 99. Neither Babel or N'Gog had done a huge amount and Ryan missed a sitter after Dirk crossed from an acute angle. Moments later, Dirk scored from a similar angle when he beat James at his near post. Then El Nino hit the winner to send reds into rapture. Stunning.

We had been lucky to see Nugent score when he should have been flagged offside. Dirk had a legitimate goal ruled offside which was a pity as it would have made the finish less frantic. Pepe didn't cover himself in glory when conceding a free header from Hreidarsson.Now we're looking at an international break and it's the usual case of fingers crossed in hope that we don't lose anymore players to injuries. Then we're looking at the mercurial Man City visiting Anfield. They are starting to get a bit more solid and Given was superb at the weekend. Lucas will be back from suspension then and Torres should be fit to start. Insua should be back from captaining Argentina in the the South American u20 championship too.

Could the Barry pursuit be reopened this summer? O'Neil says he won't stand in his way if they miss out on the champions league. I like Barry but if it means Xabi being sold then I'm dead against it.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Costly defeat

Out of the cup, quel dommage. Good goal by Rodwell for the winner but what an appalling match? Both teams were shit but Everton were better once Luas got his second yellow. While I don't really care too much about the FA cup this year, we'll be counting the cost for a while. Firstly our captain came off injured after 15 mins on Wed. He's out for 3 weeks and the gaffa is worried. Luckily, there is an international break in that time so he should be back in time for the Real Madrid game.

Secondly the players had to play 120 mins which won't leave them feeling fresh ahead of the Portsmouth match on Saturday evening. Torres didn't have a great match but is regaining fitness after his lay off so I'm hoping we see the Chelsea Nino, rather than the Everton one. In fairness to Jagielka, he played well and shackled Torres by and large.

Rafa reckons he has enough attacking options without Keane. That may be true while Torres stays fit but if he breaks down then we're screwed. He did hint that the likes of Nemeth and Pacheco may get a look in at some stage. Degen, not for the first time this year, is injured and dare I say it, not for the last time either. I would like to actually have a look at him play some time. If he can't make an appearance by the summer he should get shipped out.

The myth that our full backs "never cross the halfway line" (TM Andy Gray), seems to have become an accepted fact by the masses. Funny how we saw both Aurelio and Arbeloa rampaging down both wings against Chelsea. Aurelio put in the cross for Torres goal and has four assists in the league which compares favorably with any other full back. I'll wager that this figure would be higher if he hadn't been injured for a while.

It's interesting to hear that we failed in a bid to sign Kerrison in Jan. He's a player that we've been linked to in the past but he has a complicated third party ownership contract which made any transfer very difficult. Spurs tried to offer us one of Jenas, Bently or Bale in part exchange for Robbie. Bently would have been useful as an option for the right but he seems to be a complete knobend and I don't know if he would have fit in. Fans and players don't have a very high regard for him. Anybody who rocks the dressing room boat doesn't last long at Anfield i.e. Bellamy.

Xabi says that he's going nowhere for the duration of his contract. So we can look forward to watching the maestro for the next 3 years at least.

It looks like Rafa is trying to rob Barca. The object of his attempted larceny is none other than Gerard Deulofeu, a 14 year old prospect. He too could follow in Pacheco's footsteps. Speaking of the underagers, Ince, Pepper and co beat Chelsea 1-0 in the FA youth cup last night. Let's hope they can repeat the success of Spearing's team a few years back.